Ó Cuív calls for robust debate on planning


AN INDEPENDENT review into planning irregularities in local authorities would have been preferable to yesterday’s Government report, Éamon Ó Cuív (FF) told the Dáil.

He said the Government should consider, even at this stage, an external validation of the report.

“I believe that it would add to public confidence in relation to this matter,” he added.

Mr Ó Cuív was introducing a Fianna Fáil Private Members’ Motion calling on the Government to reinstate independent inquiries, initiated by the previous government, into planning irregularities in seven local authorities .

He accused the Government of sitting on the issue since coming into power. “They did not really do anything about the thing at all,” he said. Fianna Fáil, he said, had pursued the issue and had forced the Government into action. “Two years since this process started . . . at last we get the report at 6.45pm today,” he said.

Mr Ó Cuív said the report should be sent to the Oireachtas Environment Committee so that it could make recommendations. Politicians, he added, had been much maligned in many cases when it came to planning. A robust debate would clear the air.

Minister of State for Housing and Planning Jan O’Sullivan (Lab) said she would appoint an independent planning expert who could revisit any issue contained in the report.

“To hear Fianna Fáil people coming out relating to planning is extraordinary in view of the Mahon report,” she said, adding that a previous minister, John Gormley, had selected the seven local authorities. The current Government had completed the review intended by him.

“Minister Gormley did not commence any reviews,” she added. “He announced that he was going to have reviews in the summer of 2010.” Ms O’Sullivan said Mr Gormley had been replaced in the Department of the Environment by Mr Ó Cuív, who did not seem to remember that he could have moved the investigations forward.

The report, she added, came to more than 900 pages and contained all relevant information. She had no objection to it going to the environment committee.

Ms O’Sullivan said it had been intended to publish the report on Thursday but it had been brought forward in deference to the Dáil which was going to spend three hours debating the issue.

She added that the report was “a robust and thorough analysis” of various aspects of the planning system in Ireland. It proposed action across a number of fronts, which she was committed to implementing. It was by no means a panacea for restoring public trust in the planning system which had been devalued by the criminal and corrupt actions of a minority.

“However, it will complement the whole of the Government’s response to the Mahon tribunal which will be published in the coming weeks,” she said.